Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

George Bernard Shaw, Irish writer and social activist (1856-1950)

BrendanWhile quite a few Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown are of Irish descent, Sister Brendan is unique in that she emigrated from Ireland. She faced discrimination when she first arrived in the United States, but her faith in God was a source of strength that empowered her through life’s challenges.

Sister Brendan came from a large Irish family. Growing up in poverty, in the 1920s and 30s, her family worked hard to make ends meet. She was the third of ten children, and because she was considered the strongest of her siblings, often helped her father around the farm.

At age 19, after working in a Dublin restaurant, Sister Brendan traveled to England, where she learned English from a priest (she’d only spoken Gaelic), and the world opened up before her. With her mother’s encouragement, Sister Brendan left her family’s farm and immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s to pursue a religious vocation.

As an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown, Sister Brendan has ministered in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties and beyond. Wherever she goes, she has been a witness of God’s unconditional love. “She makes everyone feel special,” Ursuline Sister Kathleen Minchin says. “That’s what God does for us, makes us feel special. People see that reflected in her.”

Sister Brendan’s ministry began in the field of education. She spent 20 years teaching grades 1-5. After that, she began working at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, supervising the housekeeping staff.

More recently, Sister Brendan served as a pastoral minister at St. Michael Parish in Canfield. She ministered to the home bound as well as those in hospitals and nursing homes. She looks back on those 13 years with particular fondness. She enjoyed getting to know the families of the parish and working alongside the pastor, Father Terry Hazel. With a beaming smile, she remembers, “I liked Terry since the first day I saw him. But if he gave you work to do, he expected to find you working.” The two have remained close friends.

Sister Brendan’s adventurous spirit led her to new places and experiences. She found a kindred spirit in fellow Ursuline Sister Virginia McDermott, a friend who shared Sister Brendan’s sense of adventure until her passing a few years ago. Sister Brendan also incorporated her passion for driving into her ministry. When she visited St. Michael’s parishioners in their homes, she bought a GPS to help her navigate the different neighborhoods. She was one of the first among the Ursuline community to have a GPS and she quickly learned how to use it, first gauging the distance on a map, and then following the GPS’s directions.

“She loved visiting people,” Ursuline Associate Rosemary Yaniglos says. “She’d tell me how she would encourage them and pray with them and give them hope, and how in turn they gave her hope—and wisdom, too.”

During Sister Brendan’s years with St. Michael Parish, she made monthly visits to Paisley House, an assisted living facility in Youngstown for women, where she prayed with the residents and distributed communion to them. Sister Brendan’s visits united people of different faiths, and she made everyone feel welcomed and loved.

Though retired, Sister Brendan remains active, drawing energy from the company of others as she has her whole life. During the week, she participates in activities such as crafts, exercise, and bingo at the Antonine Sisters’ center in North Jackson. She enjoys talking with the other seniors there and seeing the delight in their eyes when they win bingo prizes. “That thrills them, you know,” Sister Brendan observes. “And they’d say: I’m taking this home to my aunt, I’m taking this home to my sister… It’s a nice thing to give them.”

For women discerning a religious vocation, Sister Brendan offers these words of encouragement: “Go for it. You’ll make it. I’ll tell you that. Even with hardships—you overlook those, because they have meaning.”

Through joys and hardships, Sister Brendan’s good-hearted nature touches all those she meets, and Rosemary Yaniglos admires her spirit and strength. “Somehow she grows with it, and, those of us who love her, we grow with her. She makes us stronger,” Rosemary says.

Sister Brendan enjoys community life and is grateful for the friendships she’s formed with the other members of the Ursuline community. “They’re helpful, in every way that they can,” she says of the Sisters. “There’s a lot of joy to have women together.”

September 2013

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  1. Thank you for your kind words! Brendan was a good companion. Saint Angela rejoices!

  2. I’d like to make a sympathy note to all of the Ursuline Sisters, I was unable to attend the wake as I was going through a personal tragedy of my own. I want you all to know the way that Brendan touch my family’s life. She cared for my husband’s aunt, Viola Vaschak, for over seven years. She took her to the doctors, made meals for her & even took her as well as my sister-law Bonnie Rasile (my husband’s sister ), on shopping sprees. We would enjoy lunch and enjoy our day outings. It gave Aunt Vi so much to look forward to. She absolutely loved Sister Brendan even when she sometimes had to be stern about eating more or taking her showers. Our family was always grateful for Brendan being a part of our family. May she rest in Peace.
    Ginger, Steve, Bonnie, Don & the kids

  3. Thank you for your memories. As we continue to live lives of love and compassion, we remember Sister Brendan. Blessings to you and yours.

  4. What a wonderful woman and example of living a life called to serve Christ. She over came many obstacles to pursue her calling. Sr. Brendon was my 3rd grade teacher at Immaculate Conception. She was a hard, tough, no nonsense nun that many to this day remember her for her stern nature. I admired her and never forgot how a woman who commanded respect and obedience also displayed love and compassion. Over the years (now 51) I’ve remembered her fondly. She is one of my role models of a leader. I know she now knows the far reaching impact her life had on the people she touched. I pray God finds more remarkable adventures for this amazing woman and someday we have a chance to meet again. God Bless you Sisters as you mourn her loss.

  5. Very moving piece … I’d gently correct the bit about learning English at age 19.
    Sister B. grew up in a highly literate and ENGLISH speaking family, one of whom was my mother.
    They certainly weren’t Gaelic speakers, although they would of course have learned Gaelic at school.

  6. Mary (Hynes) Herrmann

    I enjoyed reading about the life’s work of Sister Brendan. Please relate to her that Margaret Hynes and family think of her often and send their best. Joe Hynes passed away in 1998 but Margaret is still going strong at age 100. May God bless Sister Brendan in all her future endeavors.

  7. Thank you for your kind words! We will share them with Sister Brendan. She has fond memories of her years of teaching. Please keep her in your prayers.

  8. I so enjoyed reading about Sister Brendan. She was my first grade teacher in 1956. I have so many fond memories of her telling us about climbing the hill for Easter morning mass in Ireland, or how she would always have food for a little girl in our class who had none; or, if we talked in class or misbehaved in other ways, she would make us take our shoes off and put them in front of the blackboard — so humiliating, but effective! I loved her very much, and I pray for her often.

  9. Thanks, will certainly bring your message to Sister Brendan.

  10. Mary Beth Welsch McDonnell

    i remember Sr.Brendan well. I am a niece of Sr. Betty Kerrigan. I,d gladly visit,but I live in Ireland now. Please tell her I. Said hello and will remember her in my prayers.

  11. Sister Brendan would enjoy a vsit!

  12. Loved reading about Sister Brendan. She was like family because she was friends with my aunt, Sister Charlotte McEvoy. Please say hello to her for me. I need to visit her!

  13. It was enjoyable and uplifting to read Sister Brendan’s story. Whenever she was quoted, I found myself hearing her Irish voice. She was anxious to get back from the hospital awhile back. She worked hard to talk and eat, so she could come “back home”. I admire her strength and desire to be with us. She is a gift to the Ursulines and all those whom she has met in her ministries. We love you, Brendan.

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